The News & Observed marked its 119th birthday this week. But will it see 125 – or 130?
It’s part of a century-old industry that last week was invaded – to be saved or razed? – by the billionaire owner of a brand-new industry, Amazon.
Executive Editor John Drescher wrote in his front-page story that founder Josephus Daniels “was an innovator. He helped invent the modern newspaper with its sports coverage, comics and sections devoted to news and commentary. Daniels died in 1948, but his creative spirit lives on at The N&O. The print paper is still important, but we also report the news digitally through newsobserver.com, triangle.com, Facebook, Twitter, tablets (such as the iPad) and our digital replica edition (an electronic newspaper that looks like the print paper).”
But can the N&O make enough money doing that? Can newspapers – even great newspapers in growing regions – survive? And in what form?
Does Jeff Bezos have a magic formula to stop the bleeding?
Josephus’ great-grandson, former Executive Editor Frank Daniels III, made the N&O an Internet pioneer. Remember nando.net?
But the Internet, and Craigslist, killed classified ads. The cash flow dried up, the news hole shrank and deep staff cuts ensued. One retired N&O reporter compared the classified ads between a Sunday paper he saved from 25 years ago and one published this summer: 70-plus pages then, four now.
The N&O – and other newspapers – are still powerful. They set the agenda. They produce the content, and content is king.
But their product requires huge outlays to produce a printed page and deliver it to homes early every morning. Less revenue means less staff to produce good content.
I’m rooting for the paper. It’s been part of my morning almost all my life. I read it (print edition) first thing – unless I’m in Nags Head, where you can get it only on Sunday (maybe). My dad went to work in the N&O composing room when I was a year old. My first job at 16 was a copyboy in the newsroom. I worked there for 10 years until I went to work with Jim Hunt. And I’m sure it helps that I generally agree with their editorial positions.
So I wonder: What would Josephus do?